Alas and rue the day when calamity hit the club and I, Savage Beare, defender of the scurrilous catamites, keeper of the key chain and general factotum, was unable to stem it. Last Candlemas, some villain gained access to the premises—probably by one of the large sash windows which had been opened after I had secured it for the night—and raided some of the private correspondence and papers kept here.
The first name which sprang to everyone’s mind, as they flapped about in their dressing gowns, looking at the mess the villain had left, was Leach. He’s just the sort of arse-pinching, muck raking, lickspittle pile of horse dung who hates the Lords of Aether so much he’d do anything to see them ruined. We had visions of him selling the material to the News of the World or some other equally disreputable rag, good for nothing but to wrap your pie and chips in. Her Majesty’s arm isn’t so long nor so omnipotent as to afford my gentlemen (I use that term with my tongue in my cheek) protection if all the goings on that go on here were to be detailed. Lord Anthony may have served his country nobly over the years but he’s also serviced more than a few chaps along his way and if even one tenth of those stories were revealed not only would it fill a whole edition, it would have middle England choking on its kippers. Even the naughtiest vicar, one who secretly burns with desire for his curate and holds a passion for the bishop, would be shocked at what his Lordship has held in his day.
But my Poll wouldn’t entertain that notion. Some of the most scurrilous material—just the sort of stuff Leach would have gleefully stuck down his corset and escaped with—was left behind. As was the club’s silver and a quantity of cash, so ordinary thieves were out of the question, too.
“Beats me, old girl,” I said to her, as we cleared up the mess and helped Lord Anthony get the papers back into order. “If you eliminate both a common burglar and old lardy-pants then what have you left?”
Poll looked at me, looked at Lord Anthony, rolled her eyes in that way she has that makes me think of goose-feather beds and her in them, and said, “Just as well the burglars weren’t looking for brains because they’d never have found any in your head, would they?”
I looked at Poll, looked at Lord Anthony, he smirked in that way he has that makes me think of him in a goose feather bed and doing who knows what and me being at least five hundred yards away at the time, and said, “I may not be the shiniest knob on the brass bedstead, but what, prithee, is it I am not aware of?”
“Savage, old fruit,” Poll replied, addressing me as though I were only seven and a half and couldn’t get to grips with my four times table, “what exactly is missing? Is it Spence’s scientific patents? Is it Shelley’s private diaries that his lordship purloined last year? Is it anything of importance or is it the blithering sea serpent stuff?”
“Sea serpent? Mr. Silsbury’s thesis?” I shuddered in recollection. Two whole weeks we’d had him going on about nothing else but the thing he’d seen off Dungeness, how it was the great primeval monster from the deep, a living dinosaur or some such. In the end, we had him dispatched off to Lyme Regis, ostensibly to look for fossils but really in hope that he’d be buried under a landslip. “Who’d want to steal that load of old twaddle? Someone running short of toilet paper, I suppose.”
“He has a rival.” Lord Anthony neatened a pile of papers and filed them away again. He has a deft hand, his lordship. Doesn’t bear to think what he does with it. “Chap called Dawson. Wants to usurp his discovery and get him elected to the Royal Society.”
“He wouldn’t get voted to the Royal Cambridge Music Hall with that load of old cr…crud. Plagiaristic, speculative nonsense.” I had a sudden pang of remorse. They may be a load of britches ripping mollies, but the members of the club are my britches ripping mollies and nobody’s allowed to vex them. Except me. “What will he do when he discovers his loss?”
“Go and steal it back again, you old custard head. Just the sort of jape he’d want to get involved with. Look—his lordship’s gasping at the thought of the fun.”
I didn’t look. You never know what Lord Anthony’s gasping with. “Poll,” I said, weakly, “put the kettle on, will you, my dear? It’s all been too much.”
“Of course, old cock.” She said, smiling. “And I’ll find a bit of Dundee cake. Men need sustenance at times like this.” At which she winked…and I hoped that sustenance would keep me going through to bedtime.